Throughout America’s history, there have been several devastating incidents that have changed our perception of the built environment. This paper is a summary and critical analysis of four books that describe these incidents and their effects.
Triangle: The Fire that Changed America
In March of 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, located in Greenwich Village, New York. Due to the lack of building regulations at the time, the fire quickly spread and destroyed the three upper stories of the building. David von Drehle gives an overview of the events of the fire and the building regulations that led to the tragic loss of 146 lives in the fire (2004). There are several reasons given why the death toll from this fire was so high: primarily, the clothing within the building was flammable despite the fireproofing of the building, and one of the staircases had been barricaded making it difficult for workers to escape.
To Sleep with the Angels: A Story of a Fire
Kuenster & Cowan (1996) cover the destruction of Our Lady of the Angels school in Chicago. This event lead to the death of 95 people, of whom 92 were students, in December of 1958. The fire had a high death toll for several reasons, including the fact that students had to follow certain protocols to report a fire, delaying the arrival of the fire department. The tragedy led to the city of Chicago reorganizing building exits code and life safety story code, including placement of fire alarms not more than 100 feet from the school front.
Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath
Fire in the Grove is a story that tells of the Cocoanut Grove fire, which occurred in November of 1942 in Boston (Esposito, 2010) and led to the death of 492 people. The fire was so deadly because of the use of flammable materials as decoration in the club, plus the desire of the club owners to prevent people from entering without paying. The deadliness of the fire led to changes in regulations about the number of exits that a building was required to have.
Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert
Killer Show describes the events of the station nightclub fire, which occurred in February of 2003. Within 10 minutes of the fire breaking out, 90 deaths were confirmed and 200 injured, with several of these dying in the following months (Barylick, 2012). The fire was started with fireworks which were part of the show, and management were unable to evacuate people due to the limited navigability of the nightclub.
- Barylick, J. (2012). Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert. UPNE.
- Drehle, D. V. (2004). Triangle: The Fire that Changed America. Grove Press.
- Esposito, J. C. (2006). Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath. Da Capo Press.
- Kuenster, J., & Cowan, D. (1996). To Sleep with the Angels: A Story of a Fire. Ivan R. Dee.